Great Britain claimed a famous gold medal with a brilliant victory in the first ever Olympic Games mixed relay triathlon in Tokyo early on Saturday.
Jess Learmonth, Jonathan Brownlee, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee were absolutely superb as they romped to a decisive success.
Yee was together with French star Vincent Luis as they set out on the final 2km run of a thrilling race, and blasted clear to win convincingly, with Morgan Pearson of the United States overtaking the flagging Luis to take silver.
Maya Kingma of the Netherlands was quickly into the lead in the water, but eventually Learmonth overhauled her to take her expected position at the front. She had an advantage of a couple of seconds over the Dutch star as they exited the water, with Katie Zaferes of the United States right there in third.
The 33-year-old Learmonth had been really strong in the swim and on the bike before fading into ninth on the run in the individual event on Tuesday. And she was part of a four-strong leading pack as they continued on two wheels. The other three were Kingma, Zaferes and Laura Lindemann of Germany.
By the end of the first bike lap of two, that lead group had a clear lead over the chasing pack. That included another of the pre-race favourites France – who were 21 seconds down in the shape of Leonie Periault.
The lead group were still well clear into T2, and an excellent transition from Learmonth saw her exit first, followed by Lindemann, Kingma and then Zaferes. Australia was next some 26 seconds off the pace, with France down in 10th – 33 seconds behind Learmonth.
The first run lap saw Zaferes move right up alongside Learmonth, with Lindemann and Kingma just four seconds back in third and fourth respectively. The French were up to fifth by now, but still some 30 seconds off the pace.
Zaferes tried to make a decisive move on the second run lap, but Learmonth just would not let her get away. Katie put in a sprint finish to hand over first to Kevin McDowell, and Lindemann produced a scorching finish to hand over second to Jonas Schomburg. Then it was Learmonth handing over to Brownlee. France – in fifth – had cut the gap a little but still remained 26 seconds back from the lead.
Schomburg was out of the water first for Germany, closely followed by McDowell and Brownlee. Dutchman Marco van der Stel was just behind Brownlee in fourth, while the chasing pack. The French were 38 seconds off the pace in sixth.
That lead group of four continued to set the pace on two wheels and was still tightly packed at the end of the first bike lap, while France was 31 seconds back in seventh position.
There was still absolutely nothing between Great Britain, the United States, Germany and the Netherlands into T2 and it was Brownlee who came out just in front. Belgium and France were 26 and 27 seconds behind in fifth and sixth.
Brownlee poured on the pressure during the first run lap, and went through the bell two seconds in front of McDowell. There was then a further seven seconds to van der Stel and Schomburg in third and fourth.
Britain’s Brownlee continued to apply the pressure on the final run lap, increasing his lead over McDowell and the United States. The gap at the handover was nine seconds after a superb run from Jonathan. He handed over to individual silver medalist Taylor-Brown, while McDowell was followed by surprise inclusion Taylor Knibb.
Rachel Klamer for the Netherlands was 22 seconds behind the leader while Germany’s Anabel Knoll was right behind her. France, in the shape of Cassandre Beaugrand, was still 30 seconds behind GB but closing in on the medal positions.
Taylor-Brown extended Great Brtain’s lead in the swim and exited the water 23 seconds clear of Knibb for the United States. Beaugrand though had put France right back in medal contention – in third place now just a couple of seconds behind the US.
Onto two wheels and Taylor-Brown was now out on her own at the front while Beaugrand sat on the back wheel of Knibb as they gave chase.
Taylor-Brown ended lap 1 of 2 on the bike with a lead of 22 seconds over Knibb, who had by now completely dropped the fading Beaugrand, displaying her strength on two wheels. The French woman was now sixth in a pack of four along with the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.
Knibb set about trying to close the gap on Taylor-Brown on Lap 2 on the bike, and she enjoyed some success – halving it to 11 seconds by the time the pair exited T2. The chasing pack of Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands was around 40 seconds off the lead.
Taylor-Brown reasserted on the first run lap, moving 14 seconds clear of Knibb while Beaugrand had taken clear possession of third for France – but 35 seconds behind the British leader.
When Taylor-Brown handed over to fellow individual silver medalist Yee she had built an advantage of 21 seconds over Knibb, who passed on to Morgan Pearson as the United States looked to rekindle its golden bid.
Luis meanwhile went into the water for France in third, some 33 seconds behind Yee.
Yee maintained a good lead on the swim, exiting the water 17 seconds clear of Pearson, while Luis had made really good inroads for France. He was just a couple of seconds behind the American now in third. By now these three nations – as expected – looked guaranteed to fill the podium positions.
Luis – bidding to shrug off the disappointment of finishing well down the field in the individual men’s event – was like a man possessed as he tried to cut into Yee’s lead on the bike. By the end of the first lap on two wheels he had caught the Briton, and he then took over at the front momentarily as they went through the bell. Pearson was just four seconds away in third.
Yee and Luis settled down together at the front for the second bike lap, with the final 2km run ahead of them. There was nothing between the pair as they entered T2, some seconds clear of Pearson – who was hanging tough.
It was the Briton who left T2 with an advantage of three seconds over Luis after a really smooth transition, with Pearson a further six seconds away for the United States.
Yee blasted away to a decisive lead on the first lap of the run, and was 11 seconds clear of the resilient Pearson, who by now had passed Luis.
There was no way back for the chasers as Yee scorched clear to win by 14 seconds from Pearson of the United States, with Luis a further nine seconds back in bronze for France.
Olympic mixed relay triathlon results
Tokyo, Saturday July 31, 2021
- Great Britain 1:23:41
- United States 1:23:55
- France 1:24:04
- Netherlands 1:24:34
- Belgium 1:24:35
- Germany 1:24:40
- Switzerland 1:25:27
- Italy 1:26:33
- Australia 1:26:27
- Spain 1:26:31